Allegheny County issues tick warning after seeing increase in Lyme disease cases

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With an increase in reported cases of Lyme disease, the Allegheny County Health Department is warning residents about how to protect themselves from ticks, whose bite can spread the disease.

There were 145 reported cases of Lyme disease in 2013, according to a news release distributed today by the county. That marks an increase from past years, when the number of cases ranged from 16 to 35 between 2004 and 2008.

Also last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection tested 56 deer ticks in Allegheny County for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, the news release said.

Lyme disease can usually be treated with antibiotics if it is caught early, Health Director Karen Hacker said.

"When it goes undiagnosed and untreated, serious complications may develop such as chronic arthritis and neurologic problems," Hacker said in a statement. "Some people may remain untreated because early symptoms are usually mild and flu-like and don't always include a telltale 'bull's-eye rash' that can appear 3 to 30 days after the bite."

To avoid developing Lyme disease, the health department said residents should:

• Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, especially through August.

• Stay in open spaces or trails when walking in the woods.

• Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks if walking through wooded areas.

• Use insect-repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET on bare skin.

• Remove ticks from clothing before going indoors, then wash clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat.

• Bathe or shower with a wash cloth.

• Check skin for ticks after being outdoors.

• Keep grass areas near home clean and free of leaf litter, tall grass and other shrubbery that may attract tick-bearing animals.

• Examine household pets for ticks after they go outside.

• Consider using insecticides to control ticks on property.

• Monitor health closely after a tick bite.

First Published July 22, 2014 12:00 AM

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